It took a few days for Mala to accept that her child was autistic, and that she needed to be there for him. She needed to help him out of his miseries, his mundane world. She needed to be strong. She didn't shed a tear.
Instead, she researched everything she could about autism, looking for ways to cure him. There were many people who claimed that their child was completely cured by some miracle treatment: a special diet, vitamins, or expensive gadgets. She tried all those on Ankur, desperate for anything to help him. Nothing worked.
Mala visited another doctor when Ankur was three, hoping he would know something her research has missed. "Is there anything that will work at all?" she begged. "Will he ever be normal? Will people ever accept him?"
"Behavioural intervention is best treatment, Mala. You have to intervene and modify his behaviour now so that he leads an independent life later. You are very lucky to have caught it so early. Ankur is young. It will be easy for you to modify his behavior. This is the perfect time to help him. He's lucky to have a mother who is so dedicated."
Mala went home and started researching again, but this time she focused on ways to help him instead of looking for miracle cures. The Internet was full of information and she read every last piece of it that she could find. Soon, she was an encyclopedia of autism treatments and got to work helping Ankur. There was not a moment when she left him unattended. At first it was tough. Ankur was quiet and reserved and refused to open up. But her perseverance paid! Slowly, Ankur started responding to her commands. He became aware of his immediate surroundings. The little three-year old followed her everywhere. He played with toys. He danced to music. His vocabulary grew faster than he did. He started to seem normal.
Mala knew that Sneha was getting neglected in some ways, but she decided it was worth it. Mala was sure that Ankur would be fine with one more year of intervention. Then, Sneha would get the attention she deserved.
Another year passed and Mala enrolled Ankur in a local nursery school. As she dropped him off, she fought back tears. The other moms cried, too, but they were crying tears of sadness at the thought of leaving their children. Mala cried tears of joy, knowing Ankur was on the path to being a normal kid.
When she picked him up that day, the teacher pulled her aside. "Ankur doesn't like playing with the other kids," the teacher said. "He just spent the day in the corner all alone. It could just be him reacting to a new environment, but it could also be something more serious."
Mala increased her interventions, but things didn't improve, and Ankur had to withdraw from the school. Luckily, Raj's job paid them enough to hire a private tutor to come to the house and teach Ankur.
While he responded perfectly to Raj and Mala, he didn't respond to anyone else. Over the next year, his vocabulary slowly dwindled until he just stopped talking altogether. It was as if he had forgotten how to speak. While he responded to everything Mala and Raj said, he didn't speak. He simply became non-verbal.